In this new chamber recording, Steven Isserlis together with his regular collaborator, fortepianist Robert Levin, presents a magisterial and long-awaited compendium of Beethoven’s complete works for cello and piano, including Beethoven’s arrangement of his Op 17 Horn Sonata. The use of the fortepiano opens up a wealth of sonic possibilities for these works.
Violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Steven Isserlis are joined by two acclaimed musical forces - pianist Jeremy Denk and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, of which Bell is Music Director – in a landmark joint recording, For the Love of Brahms (Sony Classical). Available September 30, 2016, the new album is a unique project that features works of Brahms and Schumann that Bell calls “music about love and friendship.” Bell, Isserlis and Denk unite here in Brahms’s first published chamber work, the Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8 in its rarely performed original 1854 version. Isserlis also joins Bell – as violin soloist and director – and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in Brahms’s last orchestral work, the celebrated Double Concerto (for Violin and Cello) in A Minor, Op. 102. Bell, Isserlis and members of the Academy also offer the first recording of an unusual coupling: the slow movement of Schumann’s rarely heard Violin Concerto, in a version for string orchestra made by Benjamin Britten, who also added a short coda.
Brendel has now recorded the work three times for the gramophone. At first, on Vox/Turnabout in the early 1960s, he was the brilliant iconoclast before his deeper realization of the work's essentially comic energies. And here I use 'comic' both in the narrow sense of the term (the Diabe/li is, after all, full ofjokes, many of them with the staying-power of the finest Wildean epigrams) and in the broader sense: what Susanne Langer has called, comedy "as an image of human vitality holding its own in the world amid the surprises of unplanned coincidence".
Like Gilels, Brendel treats the Op. 35 Variations as far more than a poor relation of the Eroica Symphony finale. His approach has less of the urgent, seemingly improvisatory thrust which makes the Gilels DG performance (on LP only) so compelling, but the sharpness with which he characterizes each variation is a delight, each time bringing a moment of revelation, and often relating this essentially middle-period work to much later inspirations. The six Bagatelles of Op. 126 equally find Brendel giving these fragments a weight, concentration and seriousness to reflect what else Beethoven was writing at the time. There is a gruffness of expression with charm eliminated. The third Bagatelle is the more moving for its simple gravity, and only in the final one of the group does Brendel allow himself to relax in persuasive warmth. Fur Elise makes a simple, haunting prelude to the group and the six Ecossaises a jolly postude with Brendel evoking the bluff jollity of Austrian dance music.